Venezuela engulfed in a major crisis amid the escalating international battle over Nicolas Maduro’s presidency.
Venezuela has plunged into a major political crisis amid a growing row over President Nicolas Maduro’s future as the country’s leader.
Maduro started a second term on January 10, following a widely boycotted election last year that many foreign governments refused to recognise.
On January 23, Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president.
Shortly after Guaido took an oath swearing himself in, US President Donald Trump publicly recognised him as the country’s leader.
Maduro accused Guaido of staging a coup and ordered his arrest.
Here are all the latest updates as of Wednesday, February 20:
Guaido to head to Colombia border in a caravan: spokesman
Guaido plans to head to the border with Colombia on Thursday to lead the attempt to bring in US aid in defiance of Maduro’s government.
The opposition leader has set Saturday as the deadline for bringing in the aid stockpiled in Cucuta, Colombia.
His press office said he will depart for the border in a caravan with fellow members of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Although it was unclear what Guaido intends to do, he has enlisted hundreds of thousands of volunteers in recent days to help bring in and distribute the aid, forcing a showdown with Maduro.
Venezuela closes maritime border with Dutch islands
Venezuela’s borders with Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire will remain closed for an indefinite period, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, accompanied by Chancellor Jorge Arreaza, announced on Wednesday.
Rodriguez also informed that on instructions from President Nicolas Maduro diplomatic relations with the Government of the Netherlands Antilles will be reviewed.
The government made the decision after Curacao’s government said the island would help store aid destined for Venezuela.
Venezuelans brace for tense aid delivery bid
Venezuelans are bracing nervously for possible weekend confrontations as Guaido vows to bring US aid into the country in defiance of Maduro’s government.
In the latest maneuver of his standoff with the president, Guaido rallied bus drivers who he said will head to the borders to collect aid for Venezuelans suffering shortages.
Private bus driver Jose Figueroa, 60, said he planned to leave Caracas in the coming days in a convoy of some 30 vehicles.
“The situation is extremely tense,” he said, as drivers parked their buses and pick-up trucks at a rally in central Caracas.
“But a bullet will kill you more quickly than hunger.”
Venezuela bans boats from leaving ports
The Venezuelan military said it was banning vessels from sailing out of the country’s ports until Sunday, coinciding with an opposition bid to import shipments of US aid.
“Departures of boats from all ports are to be suspended” for security reasons, said a military decree seen by AFP news agency.
Colombia prepares for concert
The Colombian border city of Cucuta is preparing for a live concert over the weekend that aims to shed light on the humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Venezuela.
Cucuta’s mayor Cesar Rojas Ayala said Cucuta is preparing with strong police presence but does not expect a military confrontation.
“We have available 1,500 men throughout all the corridors where the movement of vehicle of the personalities will be,” Ayala said.
Switzerland says its president did not speak to Guaido
Swiss President Ueli Maurer did not speak to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido about freezing Swiss bank accounts belonging to the South American nation, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.
“This information is not correct. There was no telephone contact between Guaido and President Maurer,” the spokesman said by email in response to an enquiry.
He was not immediately available to elaborate.
Guaido: We will go to the barracks
Opposition leader Juan Guaido informed citizens that the mobilisation summoned for this Saturday will go to the military barracks to demand that humanitarian aid is allowed to enter the country.
Guaido also sent a message to the military citizens and stressed that the entry of humanitarian aid is to serve citizens and “save lives.”
Russia: Diplomacy ignored by US in Venezuela
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the United States of “direct intervention” in Venezuela.
He alleged the opposition, led by Juan Guaido, was guilty of “actively supporting and instigating this external interference”.
“This is undoubtedly a direct violation of the UN charter and a direct intervention into the domestic affairs of an independent country,” said Lavrov of American actions.
He added the US was ignoring diplomacy.
Lavrov’s comments came as Russian news agencies reported a shipment of Russian medicine and medical equipment arrived in Venezuela.
Security forces punish anti-Maduro protesters: Amnesty
Venezuelan security forces have executed several people and arbitrarily detained hundreds of others in a campaign to punish people who protested President Nicolas Maduro, human rights group Amnesty International said.
In a report titled Hunger, punishment and fear, the formula for repression in Venezuela, Amnesty said dozens died during five days of protests from January 21 to January 25, almost all from gunshot wounds, and 900 people were arrested.
Guaido trying to freeze accounts in Switzerland
Opposition leader Juan Guaido said he spoke to the president of Switzerland to try to freeze banks accounts belonging to the tumultuous South American nation after “irregular movements” were discovered.
“We are talking to the Swiss president,” Guaido said in an interview with Mexican network Televisa.
Guaido said the Venezuelan government held bank accounts in Switzerland and irregular efforts to migrate part of those accounts to “another site” had been detected.
Maritime border with Dutch Antilles reopened
Venezuelan authorities reopened the country’s maritime border with the Dutch Antilles islands after closing it on Tuesday, a regional military commander told Reuters news agency.
General Miguel Morales Miranda, second-in-command for the state of Falcon, did not give a reason for the change, which now allows boats and aircraft to travel between Venezuela and the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire.
Tuesday, February 19
Brazil to send aid to Venezuela together with US: spokesman
Brazil will deliver humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan border by February 23 together with the United States at the request of Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó, presidential spokesman General Otavio Rego Barros said on Tuesday.
The distribution of aid from the northern Brazilian city of Boa Vista across the border in trucks driven by Venezuelan citizens will be organized by Guaidó, the spokesman said at a news conference.
Venezuela closed its sea border with Curacao ahead of the aid operation, a military official said.
Cuba denies Trump claim of troops in Venezuela: official
Cuba rejected Tuesday the “despicable” accusation by US President Donald Trump that it has troops in Venezuela defending socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.
On Monday, Trump claimed that Maduro was being “protected by a private army of Cuban soldiers.”
“Let him show the evidence. Our government rejects this slander in the strongest and most categorical terms,” said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
Venezuela closes maritime border with Dutch Antilles: navy
Venezuelan authorities have closed the maritime border with the Dutch Antilles, a regional navy chief told Reuters on Tuesday.
The closure prevents boats and aircraft from arriving from the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire.
Vice Admiral Quintero Martinez did not give a reason for the closure, though Venezuela’s opposition have said they plan to bring humanitarian aid into the country from Curacao on Saturday, which President Nicolas Maduro’s government has pledged to block.
Pink Floyd’s Waters slams Venezuela border aid concert
Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters slammed an upcoming “Live Aid”-style concert to raise funds for humanitarian aid for Venezuela, calling the event a US-backed effort to tarnish the socialist government.
Billionaire Richard Branson is backing the Friday show in the Colombian border city of Cucuta with a fundraising target of $100m to provide food and medicine for Venezuelans suffering widespread shortages.
“It has nothing to do with humanitarian aid at all,” the 75-year-old Waters said. “It has to do with Richard Branson … having bought the US saying, ‘We have decided to take over Venezuela, for whatever our reasons may be.'”
Venezuelan troops to remain on border: minister
Venezuela’s armed forces will remain stationed along the country’s borders to prevent potential territorial violations, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino said.
Padrino said Venezuelan officers and soldiers were “obedient and subordinate” to President Nicolas Maduro, who some 50 countries around the world no longer recognise as the legitimate head of state.
Ousting Maduro over ‘our dead bodies’: minister
Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Tuesday the country’s opposition would have to pass over “our dead bodies” to oust President Nicolas Maduro and impose a new government.
“Those that attempt to be president here in Venezuela … will have to pass over our dead bodies,” he said, in comments broadcast on state TV.
Padrino was referring to opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, denouncing Maduro as illegitimate.
Monday, February 18
Maduro defiant after Trump speech
Shortly after a speech by Trump in Miami, during which he pleaded with Venezuela’s armed forces to support Guaido and warned of dire consequences for standing with Maduro, the Venezuelan president accused his US counterpart of trying to give orders to a foreign country’s military.
“Who is the commander of the armed forces, Donald Trump from Miami?” Maduro said on Monday, in comments broadcast by state television.
“Who is the constitutional commander-in-chief? They believe with their arrogance and their contempt for us. They believe they own the country and Donald Trump believes he has the power to give orders and that the National Bolivarian Armed Forces will carry out his orders.
“It is an offence to dignity and to shame.”
Maduro, who has vowed not to let US aid enter Venezuela, also said that 300 tonnes of assistance would soon arrive from Russia. He said Venezuela paid for the Russian goods and is not a country of beggars, lashing out at Trump for thinking he can force in unwanted aid.
“They want to enslave us,” Maduro said. “That’s the truth.”
Trump reiterates all options are possible in Venezuela
Trump on Monday warned members of Venezuela’s military who support President Nicolas Maduro that they are risking their lives and urged them to allow aid into the country.
Speaking to a cheering crowd mostly of Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants, Trump said if the Venezuelan military continues supporting Maduro, “you will find no safe harbour, no easy exit and no way out. You’ll lose everything.”
He said he wanted a peaceful transition of power in Venezuela but that all options remained open.
“I ask every member of the Maduro regime: End this nightmare of poverty, hunger and death. LET YOUR PEOPLE GO. Set your country free! Now is the time for all Venezuelan Patriots to act together, as one united people. Nothing could be better for the future of Venezuela!” he tweeted on Monday.
I ask every member of the Maduro regime: End this nightmare of poverty, hunger and death. LET YOUR PEOPLE GO. Set your country free! Now is the time for all Venezuelan Patriots to act together, as one united people. Nothing could be better for the future of Venezuela!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2019
Government to organise concert on February 23
The Minister of Communication and Information of Venezuela Jorge Rodriguez, announced on Monday the realisation of a “concert for peace,” in the framework of Venezuela’s campaign “Hands off Venezuela,” the website Telesur reported.
The event will take place at the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, located in the Colombian-Venezuelan border on Friday and Saturday (February 22-23). According to local reports, it will count with the participation of numerous artists “in support of Venezuelan democracy. ”
Minister Rodriguez also announced a day of free medical attention for Colombian and Venezuelan citizens, which will be attended by pediatricians, internists, gastroenterologists and other specialists.
On February 22, billionarie Richard Branson also announced a concert to “rally humanitarian aid for Venezuela.”
According to Branson 300,000 people are expected to attend the concert.
Branson said he has spoken to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and hopes the concert will help break Maduro’s blockade so the aid can reach Venezuelans suffering from chronic shortages of food and medicine.
Trump to say Venezuela’s military at risk for supporting Maduro
President Donald Trump will say in a speech on Monday that Venezuela’s military officials should “work toward democracy” or risk losing everything they have.
“The United States knows where military officials and their families have money hidden throughout the world,” the White House said in describing what Trump planned to say.
The White House issued points from a speech Trump was to deliver in the Miami area later in the day, saying the president will say the Venezuelan military should let humanitarian aid into the country.
Sunday, February 17
MEPs invited by Guaido ‘barred from entering Venezuela’
A group of conservative members of the European Parliament say they have been refused entry to Venezuela, where they were invited by Guaido.
“We are being expelled from Venezuela, our passports have been seized, they have not informed us of the reason for the expulsion,” said Spanish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Esteban Gonzalez Pons, who led the group.
The other politicians were his compatriots Jose Ignacio Salafranca and Gabriel Mato Adrover, as well as Esther de Lange of the Netherlands and Paulo Rangel of Portugal.
All are members of the conservative European People’s Party (PPE).
Rubio warns Maduro not to act against opposition
Visiting the Colombia-Venezuela border, US Senator Marco Rubio declined to say if he would support US military action against Venezuela, warning Maduro of severe consuquences is he takes action against the opposition.
“There are certain lines and Maduro knows what they are,” the Republican politician told CNN, saying he was confident that Washington would not stand by if the Venezuelan government harmed or imprisoned Guaido.
“The consequences will be severe and they will be swift.”
Guaido calls for ‘million volunteers’ in aid standoff
Opposition leader Juan Guaido set a goal Sunday of enlisting a million volunteers within a week to confront a government blockade that has kept tons of humanitarian aid, most of it from the United States, from flowing into the country.
Food supplies, hygiene kits and nutritional supplements have been stockpiled near the Venezuelan border in Cucuta, Colombia.
Additional storage centers are supposed to open this week in Brazil and Curacao, a Dutch island off Venezuela’s northern Caribbean coast.
“Our principal task is to reach a million volunteers by February 23,” Guaido said in a message to the 600,000 supporters who have signed up so far for the push to bring aid in.
|Police officers escort trucks as they arrive at a warehouse, where international humanitarian aid for Venezuela will be stored [Carlos Ramirez/Reuters]|
Marco Rubio arrives to Cucuta
US Senator Marco Rubio has arrived at Colombian border town of Cucuta alongside the US ambassador to the Organization of the American States (OAS), Carlos Trujillo, and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart.
The Senator said he was traveling for a first-hand look at the aid operation in the border town.
The Florida Republican’s visit comes after a second US cargo of humanitarian aid arrived at the Colombian border on Saturday.
More aid will arrive on Sunday, Rubio tweeted after he landed in Colombia.
Just toured the Scalabrini Center with my wife Jeanette, @MarioDB and @USAmbOAS. Very grateful to Father Francesco Bortignon for his work in helping the #Venezuelans in #Cúcuta. pic.twitter.com/hi6kfMw5rt
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) February 17, 2019
Russia’s Gazprombank freezes accounts of PDVSA: Reuters
Russian lender Gazprombank has decided to freeze the accounts of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and halted transactions with the firm to reduce the risk of the bank falling under US sanctions, a Gazprombank source told Reuters on Sunday.
While many foreign firms have been cutting their exposure to PDVSA since the sanctions were imposed, the fact that a lender closely aligned with the Russian state is following suit is significant because the Kremlin has been among Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s staunchest supporters.
“PDVSA’s accounts are currently frozen. As you’ll understand, operations cannot be carried out,” the source said.
Gazprombank did not reply to a Reuters request for a comment.
Saturday, February 16
Planes land near border with aid
The US military airlifted tons of aid to a Colombian town on the Venezuelan border on Saturday as part of an effort meant to undermine socialist President Nicolas Maduro and back his rival to leadership of the South American nation.
Two of three scheduled Air Force C-17 cargo planes that took off from Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida had landed in Cucuta.
“This wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last,” said USAID Administrator Mark Green, standing on the tarmac in Cucuta at a ceremony to receive the aid. “More is on the way.”
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